Help yourself tackle sciatic pains in a better manner
What is sciatica? Sciatica is not a medical condition. Instead, it refers to a combination of symptoms produced due to inflammation of sciatic nerve which runs from the lower back all the way passing through the back of the thigh, calf and ankle and terminates in the toes as small little branches. The sciatic pain is largely characterized by production of pain all over the leg where ever the nerve travels; loss of sensation and tingling.
Signs and symptoms of sciatica
Sciatica is more common with middle aged people due to its typical causes. The irritation caused in and around the sciatic nerve produces some sensory as well as motor abnormalities which are experienced as:
- A cramping sensation in the back and thigh.
- Sharp pain which may be continuous or intermittent and radiates down till your foot.
- Pins and needles’ sensation which is the ruling symptom of sciatica.
- Feeling of burning in the buttocks or thigh.
The common causes of sciatica:
Sciatica is one of the most common cause of back ache and leg pain these days. It may or may not be sudden in onset. Listed below are the specific causes of sciatica, reinforced by lifestyle patterns and occupation.
- Disk herniation: Rupture of the vertebral disc or a prolapsed disc causes compression over the sciatic nerve and results in sciatica.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the canal itself at the lumbar level due to bony spurs exerts pressure and ‘pinches’ the nerve.
- Pyriformis syndrome: Sometimes the sciatic nerve may get entrapped within a small muscle called Pyriformis, located deep inside the buttock as a result of muscle spasm.
- Disk degenerative disease: Collapsing of the disc spaces as age related or a normal wear and tear process.
- Lumbar spondylosis: Roughness around vertebral bodies and small little chips of bone with some floating cartilage again produces narrowing of the space where the nerve passes through.
Getting better with sciatica
You must consult an orthopedician as soon as possible who shall examine and access you after taking brief history. The treatment depends upon severity and is classified as:
Mild sciatica treatment:
- Advice for bed rest.
- Mild analgesics.
- Ice packs/ hot packs
- Physical therapy modalities like TENS or SWD.
- Simple exercises under the guidance of therapist like hamstring stretch or Pyriformis stretch.
- Back strengthening and postural training.
Severe sciatica treatment
- Administration of strong muscle relaxants and NSAIDs.
- Epidural blocks/ pain relieving injections.
- Multiple courses of physical therapy.
- Strict bed rest.
General exercises and tips for prevention
- No forward bending, twisting or turning the back.
- Use of firm mattresses and not hard or soft ones.
- Regular use of hot water bottle to relax.
- Ankle and toe stretches.
- Straight leg raising one by one, count five and relax.
- Pressing butts close together and relax.
- Bend both knees while lifting back and butts together, count and relax.
- Lie on the tummy; lift one leg, then try lifting your upper torso slowly, repeat the same with the other leg as well.
Effectiveness of surgical intervention
Surgery for sciatica brings poor recovery and the disorder is generally seen to get better with conservative approach itself. However, the surgery is opted only after consistent failure of all other possible methods and if condition of the patient seems to be deteriorating further with time.